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Israeli navy opens fire at unarmed Palestinian fishing boats in Gaza

April 19, 2017 9:58 A.M. (Updated: April 19, 2017 11:33 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Beit Lahiya in the northwestern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, witnesses told Ma'an, while Israeli bulldozers conducted a limited incursion in southern Gaza the same morning.

Palestinian fishermen were forced to head back to shore "fearing for their lives," after Israeli forces opened fire at them, witnesses said, but they noted that no one was injured in the incident.

Separately, locals told Ma'an that four Israeli bulldozers coming from the Sufa military site east of Rafah city in southern Gaza passed the border area and razed and leveled lands near the border fence as drones were flying overhead.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an they were looking into the reports.

Israeli military incursions inside the besieged Gaza Strip and near the “buffer zone," which lies on both land and sea borders of Gaza, have long been a near-daily occurrence.

Palestinians who work near the “buffer zone” often come under fire from Israeli military forces, as the authorities have not made clear the precise area of the designated zone.

The practice has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural and fishing sector of the blockaded coastal enclave.

Gazan fishermen, whose numbers are estimated to be around 4,000, have suffered from the near decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip, which limits their incursions to just six nautical miles into the sea in accordance with the ceasefire agreement signed with Palestinian factions in 2014.

In addition to ongoing Israeli-imposed restrictions as a result of the blockade, Gaza fishermen recently suffered from a 12-day prohibition on going out to sea, imposed by Hamas authorities as part of a wider security crackdown sparked by the assassination of a Hamas leader in front of his home in March.

Israeli human rights group Gisha, which focuses on defending freedom of movement for Palestinians, especially in Gaza, strongly condemned the restrictions, saying that Hamas was “harming thousands of families who are dependent on the fishing industry. Fishing has already been limited by Israel’s restriction of Gaza’s fishing zone to six nautical miles offshore.”

The group reiterated in their statement that “security concerns do not give any actor free reign to violate human rights. Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right, and is a basic precondition for the fulfillment of other rights, such as the right to health, to livelihood, and to family life.”
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